The Golden State isn’t just about palm-lined avenues and white sand beaches, California is home to some incredible architectural styles. Long-established as one of the premier places to live in all the world, architects from all over flock to California to stake out a name for themselves.
As a result, several distinct building styles emerged. From historical styles that were built out of necessity to show-stopping architectural masterworks that pushed the boundaries of design, there are countless different building styles in California.
One of the more popular styles of architecture in California is the Mission Revival style. This style, born from old missions, is marked by red clay tile roofs with a low pitch, plain stucco exteriors and arches. Mission Revival homes are quite popular, thanks to thick wall systems that help keep the cool breeze in and the sweltering heat out. These homes are typically smaller in size, but big in historical value. A second story in today’s Mission Revival is common, where single-story Mission homes tend to be categorized as bungalows.
In 1909, Sylvanus Marston, a Pasadena-based architect, introduced the Bungalow Courts. These multifamily units are actually small, detached homes centered around a central courtyard. Only a smattering of these historical setups remains today, making them an endangered style of architecture. However, you can see bungalow-style homes throughout California. They are marked by a single story and often feature gates, arches, stucco and red tiles. Not to be confused with their Mission Revival cousins, these homes are smaller and far more common throughout older suburbs.
Spanish Colonial Revival Styles
A true collision of worlds, the Spanish Colonial Revival homes are a Southern California staple. These quaint, yet tastefully balanced home styles feature stucco, low-pitched red tile roofs, courtyards for shade and private gatherings, as well as rounded corners. Other unique accents are wrought-iron elements such as fencing or window décor. This mish-mash style blends Mission Revival, Spanish Baroque, Mexican and Islamic styles to create a unique home type that’s native to Southern California.
Although many people think of Northern California when it comes to Victorian styles, there is still a rich heritage of these homes in Los Angeles neighborhoods like Angelino Heights and West Adams. Featuring beautiful décors such as turrets, towers and elaborate wood accents, these gorgeous homes draw the eye in and have a knack for detail. Victorian homes come in a variety of different sub-genres such as Queen Anne, Folk and more. What makes these homes so wonderful is in the detail. Unique painting of the varied wood elements creates an individual look that’s loaded with personality.
The “mansion on the hill” might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Hollywood Regency style. These homes evoke elements of Greek Revival with thoughtful symmetry, columns and manicured lawns — as well as French and modernist styles that feature oversized double doors, grand curved staircases, oval windows and complex mansard roofs. Often there is a gate and a pull-through driveway to give you a sense of glamour upon entering the estate.
Although not technically a uniquely Californian architectural style, Beaux-Arts plays an important part in American history. The revival of Greco-Roman elements such as columns, arches and domes are the marked traits of Beaux-Arts. Ornate details such as marble, frescos and bronze can be found throughout this revival style. Typically, you’ll see buildings of importance, such as town halls, courthouses and more showcasing Beaux-Arts. What makes this style distinctly Californian is the addition of glazed terra cotta tiles and other Mission-style elements blended into Beaux-Arts buildings.
Yet another uniquely Californian architectural style. This whimsical building type combines elements from a French chateau such as pitched and hipped roofs, turrets, gables and round gothic archways. However, instead of building homes, architects used advanced technologies in the 1920s to design this favorable style for grand buildings such as condo complexes, hotels and more. The result is a sense of glamor and grandeur that the Golden State is known for. Living units also often had curved balconies from which residents could overlook the cityscape from their magnificent palace.
Monterey Colonial Revival
The name might suggest Northern California roots, but these wooden-style homes are quite popular in the hills of Los Angeles (such as Topanga Canyon and the Hollywood Hills). The Monterey Colonial Revival style features wraparound porches, two stories and a hip roof. Made famous by blending the Spanish Colonial style with New England elements, this classic home seeks to create a functional space to live that takes advantage of the sea breeze and stunning canyon vistas. These historical homes sometimes combine adobe and wood-framed construction to create a multitextured building.
Throughout California, you can find a variety of uniquely designed homes with plenty of heritage. California is home to many different architectural styles to suit any taste. From the Spanish Mission to glamorous Hollywood estates, there’s something for everyone.